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Management of Arthritis and Scoliosis

written by: efrontiers • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/22/2010

The management of arthritis and scoliosis can be varied, which is dependent on the diagnosis of the problem. Arthritis combined with scoliosis is a problem that everyone should prevent from happening because of several possible complications. Hence, proper management and treatment is essential.

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    The proper management of arthritis combined with scoliosis depends on the right diagnosis of the problem. The combination of these two joint problems requires attention. The manifestation of both problems is an indication of neglect or mismanagement of either arthritis or scoliosis during the early stages.

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    Definition

    First, it should be understood that scoliosis is not a form of arthritis. The only thing common between scoliosis and arthritis is that both affect the joints. Arthritis is defined as the broad category of the inflammation of the joints while scoliosis is the improper alignment of the joints within the spinal column.

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    Causes

    Normally, the cause of scoliosis is unknown and this is called idiopathic scoliosis. There are cases, however, where arthritis of the spine can lead to scoliosis. For example, severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in children can result to the inflammation of the vertebrae. The inflammation of the joints leads to damage of the vertebrae, which can result in the curvature of the spinal column.

    Among adults with degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis, the disk material between vertebrae can break down with neglect. This can damage the vertebrae, leading to scoliosis as well.

    On the other hand, scoliosis can also cause arthritis. If scoliosis is not properly treated, it can damage the vertebrae and disk of the spine. The wear and tear to the spinal column can develop into degenerative arthritis later in life.

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    Management and Treatment

    There many treatment options for management of arthritis when combined with scoliosis. The first thing that a sufferer needs to do is to make sure that the diagnosis is correct.

    For juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affecting children, the prevention of joint inflammation is very critical to the prevention of the development of scoliosis. The first-line therapy includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. In addition, intra-articular corticosteroid injections are proven to have positive effects on growth parameters without much psychological trauma in young patients. Cognitive-behavioral pain management techniques can also be successful in reducing the pain from arthritis. Finally, physical therapy is also important for pain reduction and keeping muscle function and the integrity of joints.

    For degenerative arthritis among adults, there is no specific treatment to repair damaged cartilage in osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, the goal of management is to reduce pain and to improve joint function to prevent the development of scoliosis. Treatment options include conservative measures including rest, exercise, restricted diet for weight loss, physical and occupational therapy, and even mechanical support devices.

    For people with degenerative scoliosis, prevention of pain due to arthritis is also very important. Non-operative treatment including exercises, physical therapy, and gentle chiropractic can provide relief. Nevertheless, for people who fail to see improvements with these conservative treatments, surgery may be required. To plan for the surgery, X-rays and MRI will be obtained. The surgical method normally includes the decompression or removal of bone spurs, which compress nerves causing pain. A fusion may also be necessary to stabilize the spine and correct the abnormal curve due to scoliosis.

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    Complications

    The increased curvature of the spinal column due to scoliosis can have several complications. For one, the manifestation of arthritis is a complication due to untreated or improperly treated scoliosis. Adults who had scoliosis earlier in life will likely experience chronic back pain too.

    Severe scoliosis can not only lead to pain due to arthritis. It can also cause breathing problems, increasing the risk of pneumonia and lung infections. The rib cage can also press against the heart, making it harder to function properly.

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    Conclusion

    In closing, it should be noted that scoliosis is not a complication of arthritis alone. It is combination of several factors affecting the body. Meanwhile, arthritis may also be a complication of untreated scoliosis. It is, therefore, required to diagnose scoliosis properly during its early stages and proper treatment be employed. This also applies with the proper management of arthritis to prevent scoliosis as a possible complication later.

    The combination of the two is always a more problematic situation. Hence, everyone needs to prevent this from happening by attacking the problem when it has not yet become complicated.